Alabama’s governor has signed into law new rules that criminalise gender-affirming health care for trans minors and could see doctors or parents face jail.
In the latest sweep of US legislation targeting LGBTQ+ youth, Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has signed into law two bills banning transgender healthcare for minors and teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Alabama is one of several states with Republican-controlled legislatures to have proposed such laws, along with Florida’s much-publicized ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which Texas is hoping to emulate next.
House Bill 322 (HB 322) and Senate Bill 184 (SB 184) were signed into law just one day after the state legislature approved both measures on the last day of the legislative session.
SB 184 bans gender-affirming care, while HB 322 bans trans students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. HB 322 also bans ” not age-appropriate” discussions on gender identity or sexual orientation from kindergarten through fifth grade, due to a last-minute amendment.
SB 184, also called the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, states that anyone who provides gender-affirming care – including puberty blockers, hormone therapy or physical gender-affirming surgeries – to anyone under 18 could be convicted of a felony and face up to 10 years in prison and a hefty $15,000 fine, reports ABC News
This makes Alabama the first US state tot impose felony criminal penalties on medical professionals who offer evidence-based, age-appropriate, gender-affirming treatment to youth.
It also compels school personnel to disclose to a parent or guardian that a “minor’s perception of his or her gender or sex is inconsistent with the minor’s sex”.
“There are very real challenges facing our young people, especially with today’s societal pressures and modern culture”, Governor Ivey said upon signing the bill.
“I believe very strongly that if the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl,”
“We should especially protect our children from these radical, life-altering drugs and surgeries when they are at such a vulnerable stage in life. Instead, let us all focus on helping them to properly develop into the adults God intended them to be.”
“Here in Alabama, men use the men’s room, and ladies use the ladies’ room – it’s really a no brainer,” Ivey added.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Alabama State Director Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey said in a statement
following the signing: “Today, Governor Ivey has chosen scoring political points with radical, far-right voters over the welfare of transgender youth and their families across the state. “
“The legislative package passed yesterday and signed today is the most anti-transgender legislative package ever passed”, the statement continued, “Shame on Governor Ivey for being such a political coward that she puts children in harm’s way just to serve her own career.”
American Academy of Paediatrics (APP) chief executive Mark Del Monte said: “This legislation targets vulnerable young people and puts them at great risk of physical and mental harm,”
“Criminalizing evidence-based, medically necessary services is dangerous”, he added.
Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs for LGBT+ suicide prevention group The Trevor Project, criticized Alabama lawmakers for pushing the “most extreme anti-transgender agenda we’ve seen to date – all within a matter of hours”.
“These policies are not only cruel and unnecessary, they are unpopular among a majority of Americans,” Ames said in a statement.
“Criminalising doctors, isolating trans youth from their support systems and stigmatising conversations around LGBTQ identity will only fuel more bullying, anxiety and suicide risk among these youth.”
Neil Rafferty, Alabama’s only current openly gay member of the state House of Representatives, called the bills “invasive” and an affront to conservative “small government” values.
“It’s hard enough growing up being different,” said Rafferty, “It’s even harder growing up being different, and then have a state legislature, your elected officials, the leaders of this state, put a target on children’s backs, put a target on the parents’ backs, and once again get in the middle of their decisions.”
“Just don’t you dare call me a friend after this,” he then added.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and legal partners have said they will challenge the legislation, calling it the “most deadly, sweeping and hostile law targeting transgender people in the country,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for trans justice with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project.
Adding: “The way to reduce harm to trans youth is to provide them with gender-affirming healthcare, where it is medically indicated. This bill takes that lifesaving treatment option off the table and makes it a felony.”
The Governor’s signing makes Alabama the third state in the US to pass a measure restricting gende-affirming care and the first state to impose criminal penalties.